The San Francisco 49ers' wide receiver situation took a hit when Braylon Edwards underwent surgery…
Braylon coming back as Niners return from bye
Edwards is scheduled to return to practice Tuesday when the 49ers reconvene from "improvement week," as Harbaugh puts it. Improvement week included six days off for players after they assembled a four-game winning streak leading up to the bye.
Playing against the Browns became the goal for Edwards after he suffered ligament damage to his knee while making a 21-yard catch on the 49ers' third play from scrimmage in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cowboys on Sept. 18 – San Francisco's only loss during the team's impressive 5-1 start.
"Had a chance to watch him work out last week, watched him run and run routes," Harbaugh said Monday. "Like I said, hopeful that he'll come back tomorrow and good things will happen. I anticipate seeing him out there in practice and hoping for good things."
Edwards was San Francisco's leading receiver among wideouts with four catches for 48 at the time of his injury. The 2007 Pro Bowler averaged 17.1 yards per catch on his 53 receptions last season with the New York Jets.
The Niners lost starting flanker Josh Morgan for the season to a broken leg on Oct. 9 and were playing without their two opening-day starters at wide receiver during last week's win at Detroit.
Fullback Moran Norris, recovering from a broken left fibula suffered in the Dallas game, also is set to practice Tuesday. He stopped wearing a walking boot last Monday.
"Our wounds have almost healed and we'll know better on Tuesday when we get out there on the field and practice," Harbaugh said.
With the NFL's second-best record behind undefeated Green Bay, San Francisco is in a strong position to win the NFC West and end an eight-year stretch without a winning record or playoff berth.
The 49ers return from their off week with a three-game division lead over second-place Seattle (2-4), which won the West with a 7-9 record last season.
The Niners added a ½-game to their division lead without even playing Sunday, when Seattle lost 6-3 at Cleveland. Arizona (1-5) and St. Louis (0-6) also lost, giving San Francisco three divisional rivals a combined 3-15 record.
Harbaugh doesn't allow himself – let alone his players – to think beyond the next game, though in the case of last week the coaches did look ahead to a tough November schedule and started those preparations.
"Some, a little," he said of the work toward next month. "No elaboration."
The Niners travel to Washington to face the Redskins next week, then come home to host the NFC East-leading Giants and Cardinals on back-to-back Sundays, then there's that much-hyped Thanksgiving Day sibling matchup against big brother and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh back East. The Ravens lead the AFC North, and entering Monday's game at Jacksonville they were one of just two one-loss teams in the AFC.
No word yet on whether Harbaugh worked on his handshake during the break, though he did commit to improving his postgame etiquette in the wake of his skirmish with Lions coach Jim Schwartz following San Francisco's 25-19 comeback win Oct. 16 at Ford Field.
Harbaugh gave Schwartz a firm, quick shake and then a hard pat on the back before Schwartz chased him down and had to be held back.
Harbaugh did take a little bit of downtime last week, catching his former players in No. 4 Stanford's 65-21 rout of Washington on Saturday – along with several members of his coaching staff who made the jump with him from the Cardinal program to the NFL earlier this year.
Harbaugh was hired away by the 49ers on a $25 million, five-year deal after turning around Stanford during his four-year tenure, which was capped by a school-record 12 wins and a 40-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in January.
"We all saw the same thing. Stanford is really good," Harbaugh said. "They are just that much better than everyone that they're playing. Proud of those guys. They're doing a great job. They're making it look easy."
Harbaugh also took his toddler daughter, Addison, to the movies and Disney on Ice.
"Lot of family time," he said.
Now, it's back to work and on to the Browns, whose strength is on defense.
Cleveland ranks fourth in the NFL in total defense after shutting down Seattle, which managed just 137 yards of total offense Sunday against the Browns.
"It's a salty, salty defense," Harbaugh said. "(They) play extremely well on defense, that's what I've watched the most of. Very disciplined. They're very creative in their schemes. And they play very well – very clean in their assignments, and in their technique. Very aggressive on the backend, just a lot of good, aggressive movement with the corners. They'll take chances. They'll break on the ball. They'll press you. They play very well on the backend. Very athletic at the linebackers and they're good on the edges. Personnel is talented, and they're very, very well-coached. And they have a great understanding of what they're doing."